Tatari Faran Grammar

Case System


Tatari Faran typology is based on three core cases: the originative, the receptive, and the conveyant.

The choice of case in a sentence is determined semantically, and is independent of whether the corresponding NP is the subject NP. The NP corresponding with any of the semantic roles can be made the subject NP simply by placing it as the first NP in the sentence. In this sense, the subject NP in Tatari Faran behaves differently from the subject in European languages such as English. The semantic function of the NP is independent of whether or not it is the syntactic subject of the sentence.

The meaning of the 3 core cases is best explained by examples.

Verbs of Motion

For verbs of motion, for example tapa, “to walk”, the starting point of the motion is in the originative case. The destination of the motion is in the receptive case. The thing which is in motion is in the conveyant case. For example:

huu sa tapa itsan ko buta' nei bata.
I-CVY walk cinder_cone-ORG house-RCP COMPL
I walk from the cinder cone to the house.

Note that the order in which the various NP's appear does not change the factual meaning of the sentence. In the above example, the subject NP is huu sa, “I”. One could choose to make another NP the subject instead, while keeping the same noun cases as before:

itsan ko tapa huu sa buta' nei bata.
cinder_cone-ORG walk I-CVY house-RCP COMPL
It is from the cinder cone that I walk to the house.

The factual meaning of the sentence, the fact that I walked from the cinder cone to the house, has not changed. Only the emphasis has changed. Similarly, one could choose to make the house the subject NP:

buta' nei tapa huu sa itsan ko bata.
house-RCP walk I-CVY cinder_cone-ORG COMPL
It is to the house that I walked from the cinder cone.

However, if the case of an NP changes, then the factual content of the sentence also changes:

buta' kei tapa huu sa itsan no bata.
house-ORG walk I-CVY cinder_cone-RCP COMPL
It is from the house that I walked to the cinder cone.

One might be tempted to think at this point that the conveyant case is equivalent to the English notion of “subject”; however, this is not the case. In fact, all three core noun cases may serve the role of the “subject”, depending on the semantic meaning of the verb, as we shall see in the following examples.

Sensory Verbs

Sensory verbs are divided into two categories, each of which assigns different cases to what in an accusative language might be the same thing. For example:

huu ka juerat simanin do itu.
I-ORG look wolf-RCP COMPL
I look at the wolf.

huu ka hamra simanin do aram.
I-ORG see wolf-RCP COMPL
The wolf sees me.

Notice that the only difference between the above two sentences is the verb; yet that causes the English translation to switch the subject and object. This is because in Tatari Faran, “to look” is a volitional action: one is directing one's eyes at a particular object, hence the looker is in the originative, whereas the object is in the receptive. However, “to see” is involitional: seeing is one's receiving of visual information from the thing seen. Therefore, the seer is in the receptive rather than the originative; the thing being seen is what is in the originative, because it is the source of the sight. Of course, the second sentence is probably better translated in the passive voice as “I was seen by the wolf”, since “I” is the subject NP in both sentences. The equivalent of the “active voice” would be:

simanin do hamra huu ka aram.
wolf-RCP see I-ORG COMPL
The wolf sees me.

However, when dealing with Tatari Faran, it is better to understand the semantic motivation behind the noun cases rather than to try to rationalize it with active and passive voices, because it does not really distinguish between active and passive. The subject NP merely serves as an emphatic role, rather than a subjective role in the accusative sense.

Another pair of verbs of perception is huena ... him and fahun ... uen. Both verbs can be translated “to smell”; however, there is a fundamental difference between them. The verb huena ... him refers to the volitional act of sniffing at something, whereas fahun ... uen refers to the involitional perception of an odor that just happened to come to one's nose. This difference manifests itself in how noun cases are chosen for the roles of smeller and thing being smelled:

simani ko huena huu na him.
wolf-ORG smell I-RCP COMPL
The wolf smells (sniffs at) me.

simanin do fahun huu ka uen.
wolf-RCP smell I-ORG COMPL
The wolf smells me (detects my odor).

Note how the noun cases are reversed in the second sentence.

One way to understand how Tatari Faran deals with sensory verbs is to think of the volitional verb as the sending out or directing of one's attention toward something, whereas the involitional counterpart of the verb is the receiving of information from that thing. So in the verb juerat “to look”, the looker is in the originative case because he is sending out his visual attention towards the thing being looked at. The thing being looked at is in the receptive case because it is the recipient of the attention of the looker. In the verb hamra “to see”, however, the roles have been reversed: the seer is now receiving visual information from the thing being seen, and so is in the receptive case. The thing being seen, being the source of this visual information, is in the originative case.

Similarly, the verb huena implies the focusing of one's olefactory senses towards the thing being sniffed at, so the smeller is in the originative. The thing being sniffed at, being the recipient of this attention, is therefore in the receptive case. With the verb fahun, however, the smeller is the recipient of the odor that arrived at his nose; therefore, he is in the receptive case. The thing being smelt, being the source of the odor, is therefore in the originative case.

The same analysis can be applied to the pair of verbs kuni ... iti', “to listen”, and dutan ... inin, “to hear”. The former implies the act of focusing one's aural perception at the thing being listened to; therefore, the listener is in the originative and the thing being listened to in the receptive:

san ka kuni bunari na iti'.
man-ORG listen woman-RCP COMPL
The man listens to the woman.

Hearing, however, is one's receiving of sound through one's ears; therefore, with the verb dutan, the hearer is in the receptive whereas the thing heard, being the source of the sound, is in the originative:

san na dutan bunari ka inin.
man-RCP hear woman-ORG COMPL
The man hears the woman.

It is instructive to note that the actual sound being heard is in the conveyant case, being that which is conveyed from the source of the sound to the hearer:

san na dutan suna sei inin.
man-RCP hear music-CVY COMPL
The man hears music.

One could also have all three noun cases present at once:

san na dutan suna sei bunari ka inin.
man-RCP hear music-CVY woman-ORG
The man hears music from the woman.

Verbs of Transferrence

An analogous analysis applies to verbs of giving, such as kira ... esan “to give, to hand over”:

san ka kira firasa sei bunari nei esan.
man-ORG give flower-CVY woman-RCP COMPL
The man gives flowers to the woman.

The man, being the source of the gift, is in the originative. The woman, being the recipient of the gift, is in the receptive. The gift, being that which is transferred or conveyed from the source (the man) to the destination (the woman), is therefore in the conveyant.

Last updated 26 Jan 2006.

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